Khyber Pakhtunkhwa farmers await relief
By Tahir Ali
growers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, particularly in Malakand
division, hit hard by floods and soil erosion, are waiting
for government support. The loss to rice crop and land,
farmers say, carries risks of food security, price-hike,
decreased exports, low incomes and increased poverty. The
worst hit are the subsistence farmers.
The government would have to reclaim the fields and canals
to facilitate cultivation of Rabi crop. KP agriculture
minister has said the provincial administration would do
everything possible to reclaim the 35,000 acres which had
been rendered uncultivable by the floods. But farmers are
skeptical of seeing it done any time soon as the task
requires huge funds, machinery, personnel and strong
commitment on the part of the government.
Abdur Rahim Khan, secretary general of the KP chamber of
agriculture, said rice farmers were badly hit. “They should
be provided free or subsidised agriculture inputs. Their
agriculture loans should be written off or at least the
interest thereon should be waived. Easy farm and non-farm
loans to small farmers should also be arranged,” he said.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation says rice is the
worst-hit crop in KP. An official from the agriculture
ministry said 71 per cent rice crop standing over 55,000
acres was washed away by floods, inflicting loss of over Rs2
billion to farmers. The loss will have serious implications
for the impoverished farmers.
Four districts of Malakand division - Swat, Dir upper and
lower and Malakand - were home to 68,000 acres or 88 per
cent of province-wide paddy crop. But the destroyed crop of
Malakand Division constituted 95 per cent of the total
devastated crop. The floods also washed away 90 per cent of
paddy crop in Peshawar, Nowshera and Charsadda but due to
mere cumulative acreage of around 1,500 acres, its impact
was very little.
“Around 35,000 acres in Swat and Dir districts have been
rendered uncultivable by around three feet of sand and mud
and concentration of pebbles and stones. While the loss of
standing crops is also huge, the soil-erosion caused by the
floods has been especially horrific. The affected farmers
need immediate relief,” said Muhammad Khan, a resident of
Rice is of an important diet for people in MD who use
Begumay variety in their evening meals daily.
“Rice is the favourite food and one of the biggest
businesses of farmers in Swat, Malakand, lower/upper Dir and
Chitral. The low-intensity monsoon floods in the last
century had made this land more fertile and suitable for
growing rice. Unfortunately, the mud layer is no more there
on the fields situated on river banks. It will take 15 to 20
years to spread another layer of fertile mud over the bald
land surface,” he added.
Muhammad Naeem from Swat said rice fields on river and
stream banks in Dir, Swat and Chitral have been made
uncultivable by floods. “Floods have eroded vast lands. I
have lost paddy crop on 102 canals on my land. Rich farmers
may bear the loss but where will the poor go? They need
immediate relief and a vigorous rehabilitation plan and
immediate reclamation of their lands,” he said.
“While rice crop in other areas has matured and is being
harvested, it is still unripe in Malakand Division and the
government should work closely with farmers to save the
crop,” added Naeem.
For lack of rice mills in the area, most of the work in
different phases of paddy cultivation, harvesting and
milling are done manually. It consumes more time, energy,
resources and lessens the profit margin for growers.
Haji Niamat Shah, a farmer leader in KP, said per acre yield
in most of KP was just around 400kg which was less than the
potential of 800kg. “This is because no quality local/hybrid
paddy seed is provided to farmers. While the crop requires
abundant water, the destruction of irrigation network and
soil erosion in the area means still lesser per acre yield
in the region,” he said.
Rice growers also face shortage of paddy seed for next year
crop as a huge quantity of their stored seed was washed away
by the floods.
“The KP seed industry should provide the farmers with
sufficient stock of paddy seed for next year,” said Shah.
Courtesy: The DAWN